Party, Party, Party! American Partisan Politics

By Melody Worsham
As we approach Election Day 2011, the political fervor is heightened in voters and candidates alike.  Although Americans usually vote their conscience, many adhere to a specific political platform, and will vote according to the party with which they most identify.
There are 8 major political parties in the United States, and several smaller parties with very narrow scopes of interest.  But only two parties are actually funded by the taxpayers; the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), party primaries in all states are funded by tax revenue, as well as any candidates who request federal campaign money.  Taxpayers also fund nominating conferences for the two major parties.  In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt prompted the funding of national partisan politics in the hopes that it would replace private financing that could empower the moneyed voters to have an unfair advantage over candidates whose supporters had a more limited ability to financially support the candidate of their choice.  In 1966, Congress passed the bill that allowed the U.S. Treasury to give money to candidates through their political party.  This law gives no provision to independent candidates to receive financial help from the taxpayers.  The amount of funds available for all candidates is determined by how many taxpayers voluntarily check off the box on their income tax return that designates $3 to be contributed to the fund.  The maximum a party candidate can receive is $10 million.  If the campaign funding is accepted by a candidate, they must limit private financing to $50,000.
It stands to reason that if only two parties are being funded so heavily, one might think that there are only two parties to join if you want your voice to be heard.  In realty, however, the media and the popularity of the Democratic and Republican parties tend to ignore smaller party candidates, regardless of their qualifications and leadership abilities.  And as polarized as the two major parties have become over the years, many more moderate, or flexible, voters may not be aware that there is a party out there that suits their political philosophy better.
So what’s your party?
On the “conservative” side of the political spectrum, we have the Constitution Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Republican Party.  On the “liberal” side, we have the Democratic Party, the Socialist Party and the Green Party.  In the middle, we have the Reform Party, which is considered “centrist.”  It is important to note that according to a Gallup Poll most American voters consider themselves non-partisan, even if they seem to vote along party lines.
It is how you stand on the major issues that determine whether you are aligned with one party over another.  For instance, if you oppose all censorship of personal speech or media, you may have Libertarian or Democratic leanings.  But if you think that some speech or media should be censored, you may be a Republican.  If you believe that adults have the right to possess the non-pharmaceutical drugs of their choice, you may be a Libertarian; however both Republicans and Democrats, to some extent, support the legalization of marijuana.  Abortion is opposed by most conservative parties, and euthanasia is generally supported by liberal parties.  When it comes to alternative lifestyles, Republicans oppose gay marriage vehemently, while Democrats support it with equal fervor.  Libertarians and the other parties either do not take a stance on this issue, or it varies from one party member to the next.  Foreign trade, like NAFTA, is a mixed bag because of the details in current policy, but generally, conservatives oppose trade restrictions while liberals want more regulations governing foreign trade agreements.  The Democratic Party is a strong supporter of taxation if it will benefit the country as a whole.  Republicans have come out against any new taxes imposed, where Libertarians and the Constitution Party want to abolish the federal income tax and eliminate government programs that they believe should be taken care of on the local or state level.
Still confused?  Don’t worry, you are in good company.  One of our nation’s great statesmen, Thomas Paine, once said, “A little matter will move a party, but it must be something great that moves a nation.”  According to Gallup, one-third of all American voters today have decided not to engage in partisan politics because they cannot support the entire platform of a specific party.  As an independent, they enjoy the freedom of voting for a candidate based on what their stance is on important issues instead of party affiliation.  If you are still interested in finding out what party you should join, try taking the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.  The online quiz is comprised of some basic questions to determine exactly where you fit in to the partisan political spectrum.  You may be surprised at what you find out!
World’s Smallest Political Quiz:  http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz
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